Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - Labour unions yesterday described the SABC’s plan to retrench thousands of workers as a “quick-fix solution”.

They also accused Parliament of ignoring the warning signs of the broadcaster’s profligacy over the past eight years.

The SABC has announced possible retrenchments in terms of Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act - a move that could lead to the axing of more than 2000 employees - to save R440million.

Hannes du Buisson, the Broadcast Electronic Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) spokesperson, said he was shocked and saddened by the public broadcaster’s notice of retrenchments.

Du Buisson said Bemawu, which represents 1400 of the roughly 3300 SABC employees, intends to fight the 189 notice.

“We believe it is patently unfair for this new management to resort to quick-fix solutions and butcher 2200 people who will find themselves without jobs within three months,” he said.

It is a serious problem that industry workers who had nothing to do with the SABC’s demise were now being targeted by the new management, said Du Buisson.

“For the past eight years we have been warning Parliament, the SABC and the public about the problems in the organisation, but it seems there was no will to take action - and now workers must suffer,” he said.

“The implementation of the 90/10 rule was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“A lot of people were not appointed on merit and simply brought in by the previous regime because of friends or certain favoured management,” said Du Buisson.

Speaking on Metro FM yesterday, SABC board chairperson, Bongumusa Makhathini, said the broadcaster could not survive by paying half of its revenue towards workers’ salaries.

“We are about R1.3billion in debt. Our wages take about R3.1bn.

“If you consider we turn around R7.2bn, almost half our revenue goes to salaries.”

Cosatu and the SACP have urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene.

The two ANC-led alliance partners were reacting to a circular released by the public broadcaster on Monday, stating that it would lay off 981 permanent workers and 1200 freelancers early next year.

It has a total of 3376 permanent staff and 2400 freelancers.

The circular said the retrenchments were aimed at saving money as the previous management had left the institution cash-strapped.

“It has been discovered that there had been many instances of irregular promotions and increases afforded to employees, resulting in the payment of salaries to employees that are not commensurate to the actual positions occupied,” read the document.

The broadcaster said retrenchment was the only available alternative.

“All other reasonable means of cost-cutting have been exhausted.

“In this regard, the SABC has to date managed to secure supplier and budget cost-saving of close to R60m, but this is still insufficient to avoid restructuring,” it said.

The Mercury